An unexpected lesson I learned in motherhood: How to set boundaries for myself

Here is one thing I am learning through motherhood: How to set boundaries.

I knew I had a lot to learn when I became a mother, like how to overcome sleep deprivation and how to stop a toddler meltdown. The one thing I didn’t know I needed to learn was how to set boundaries.

Not for my kid (which is important), but for me.

I work. I mother a toddler. I wife. I have other interests. I think I still have friends. The house gets dirty.

Most times I can’t do it all, or things get half done. Not because I don’t have enough time, but because my attention is pulled all over the place.

Do you know how many half-read books are on my bedroom floor? That pretty much sums it up.

I am at a stage in my son’s life where boundaries are difficult. There are always two Duplos stuck together that need to be unstuck or a shoe that needs to be put on. A temper tantrum to be handled or a diaper to be changed.

My son also wants cuddles. Tons of cuddles, which I won’t complain about.

Some days I wake up and I need more order. More room, even if it’s just mental. I know my life is inherently complex (at this moment in time), but I need my own space.

I set boundaries for my son. What about me?

It took me a while but I am finally starting to figure out how to carve out space simply for myself. This change only has been possible with the help of my husband who makes sure I follow through.

In the morning, I now make time to read, to journal or to maintain my spiritual practice. It’s a priority. I have to fight for it some days and sometimes it’s only for a few minutes.

Even a few minutes counts, and I am happier for it.

I have regular gym times that I set aside during the week and I am starting to kick butt. I don’t always want to go but I do. I always feel better.

Last weekend, I spent half an hour reading a book at a coffee shop. It was divine.

Recently at work someone tried to schedule a call to start at 5 p.m., which was too late for me. At that point, I am usually at home with my kid, possibly starting dinner. I usually get 2-3 hours at night with my son. That’s it before bed, and our family time is precious.

This meeting wasn’t worth ruining our dinner time.

I said, “No” to the meeting. It was magical. I could say no. Of course this meeting wouldn’t make or break my career and the meeting time was ultimately changed.

Before I had my son, I would have made it work, even if the call was at 8 p.m.

Damn, it feels good to say no sometimes.

In some areas of my life, I have always had trouble setting boundaries. Now as a parent, it’s particularly challenging. For me, it is easy to put off self-care like exercise, reading, a trip to the hair salon or other things I used to enjoy, because my son (or our home) occupies much of my available physical and mental space.

I am now learning to make space for me.  To read more. To move more. To relax more. It may be easier with just one kid but if we ever have another, it’s probably wise to start this practice now.

It’s starting to feel good.

Thank you “Llama Llama” for helping us transition to preschool!

Llama Llama Misses Mama: Great for transitioning to preschool!Starting preschool can be hard stuff for some toddlers. I had no idea it would take this long to adjust!

ZJ started daycare/preschool in March and it’s still difficult for him. He had to leave a babysitter who loved him dearly and gave him tons of personal attention and is now in a room full of two-year olds with a few very sweet teachers who don’t have the time to hug him all day long.

I don’t blame him. Heck, what toddler wouldn’t want to be hugged all day long?

We’ve had our ups and downs. I can tell he genuinely enjoys the school but the evenings have been hard. Sometimes he acts out because he is so tired. Or doesn’t eat.

One thing we found that helps a lot is talking to him. I explain where we are going. When I will pick him up. That I will miss him, but he will have so much fun.

My husband and I are good at managing expectations for each other, and we want to do the same for him.

For this reason, our family loves the children’s book Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney.

The book is about a toddler llama starting preschool, not wanting to get involved because he misses his mama. The book goes through his day — from hanging up his coat in his cubby to lunchtime and playtime. Then, mama picks him up after the day is done.

Of course, the little llama finds that he can love both school and mama.

My son loves that this book mirrors his day. I often find that he is better at school if we read this to him often. We always read this to him on Sunday nights before bed.

I highly recommend Llama Llama Misses Mama, especially before transitioning your kid. to preschool or daycare. We didn’t read it until after he started school but it still helps!

If you want to see how the story ends, this YouTube video says it all.

The One Tip Every New Parent Needs to Hear But Nobody Will Tell You

The one shortcut they won't tell you!

Guest post by The Shortcut Dad

Greetings Shortcut Mom readers! As you’ve probably guessed I am the husband to The Shortcut Mom, and I’ll be appearing with an occasional guest post. My first one is on a topic that is pretty simple, but one that every parent will look back on and nod their heads in agreement.

Nobody approaches parenthood expecting their life to continue as it did before their first child is born. Expecting late nights, early mornings, messes, even signs as basic as getting rid of old furniture that once occupied what has become the newest family member’s nursery warn that big changes are about to happen.

When were expecting ZJ we went to a birthing class and breastfeeding class at the local hospital, and I did some reading on the basics – I found the Baby 411 book that a neighbor gifted to us to be very informative (I was quite proud of my ability to identify meconium at our first encounter with it).

However, there was one piece of information that I did not hear from other parents, books, online articles, or anywhere else that could have warned me about the most surprising change that was coming:

When you have a baby the biggest change that catches you off guard is losing the ability to procrastinate.

When it’s just the two of you, things like buying groceries, getting the laundry done or even cleaning up dishes after dinner can be put off for a bit. That ends as soon as Little One arrives home. First, you are assuming that you will be able to physically do whatever chore or errand you had in mind. The first time some strange ailment or accident befalls your baby, you suddenly find yourself in the Emergency Room for several hours that you were counting on to take care of business.

Or maybe you don’t get hit directly – you put something off until tomorrow but don’t factor in being up three hours in the middle of the night dealing with a fussy infant. Baby might be fine the next day, but after a long day at work you might not have enough energy to move from the couch after dinner, feeding, bathing, and putting the wee one to bed.

And if you don’t get those chores done? Not going to the grocery store might lead to a late night emergency run to the nearest convenience store for diapers or milk. Putting off the laundry might mean no clean spare sheet to put in the crib after the one being used is suddenly puked on in the middle of the night. Even something as simple as not gassing up your car could leave you having to make an out of your way trip during rush hour just to get you to work the next morning.

So trust me new parents, don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. The first time an emergency hits you’ll be glad that you did!

Mom hack: Buy a shoe sizer to save time, money and your sanity!

Mom hack: Buy a shoe sizer to save time, money and your sanity!

 

Along with cutting toddler fingernails, shoe shopping is high on our list of things we don’t enjoy doing.

We did what many parents do: we braved the crowded mall on a Saturday and had our son’s feet measured at Stride Rite.

It was a zoo, but I felt confident we left the store with the correct sized shoes. What kills me is that we could have bought a similar shoe for less online, even with the sale at the store.

My husband and I had been talking for a while about buying a shoe sizer. Wouldn’t it be great to measure your kids’ feet at home?

Last week I read about the Squatchi Kids Shoe Sizer, and  I immediately ordered it from Amazon. It is a nice blue, sturdy sizer.

After using it, I realized that ZJ’s shoes should probably be retired. Not only that, but we needed to go up an entire size. We bought him shoes this weekend. Easy. His new size 7.5 shoes fit him perfectly.

From now on, it will be easier to buy shoes online for our son.  Or, I can buy him shoes in the store WITHOUT him being with me.

A note: the shoe sizer is not perfect. You need to account for size variations among shoe brands. Also, my son wears a wide width and the Squatchi doesn’t measure width.

However, it’s already been worth the money I paid for it. If only, to keep me out of the mall on a Saturday!

Mom hack: Buy a shoe sizer to save time, money and your sanity!

 

How to drink more water

Do you need to drink more water? Buy a bigger glass.Do you need to drink more water? Buy a bigger glass.

Studies have shown that the bigger the plate, the more you eat. (That’s why you use a smaller plate to eat less.)

Same holds true that the bigger the glass, the more you’ll drink.

This year, it became clear that I was not drinking enough water. It was difficult for me to drink water during pregnancy and I never really get back up to the level where I should be.

I upgraded my 20 oz cup to a Bubba 32 oz tumbler with a gigantic straw. Immediately I saw an increase in the number of ounces I drank each day when I was at work.

I went back to Target and got a second cup for home.

How to drink more water

Do you need to drink more water? Buy a bigger glass.Do you need to drink more water? Buy a bigger glass.

Studies have shown that the bigger the plate, the more you eat. (That’s why you use a smaller plate to eat less.)

Same holds true that the bigger the glass, the more you’ll drink.

This year, it became clear that I was not drinking enough water. It was difficult for me to drink water during pregnancy and I never really get back up to the level where I should be.

I upgraded my 20 oz cup to a Bubba 32 oz tumbler with a gigantic straw. Immediately I saw an increase in the number of ounces I drank each day when I was at work.

I went back to Target and got a second cup for home.

My son started preschool and I am being forced to learn a few new lessons

I didn’t expect the transition to preschool to be easy, but I had no idea that it would be hard for me too!

A month ago, our in-home daycare provider told us that she was closing shop. ZJ had been apart of this family for almost two years. I would drop him off every morning before my morning commute to work and he would stay with them all day. It broke all of our hearts to hear the news but it was the right thing for that family.

Luckily, the preschool we had lined up for him would accept him early. But we weren’t ready to move on. Well, I definitely wasn’t ready.

So last week ZJ started preschool. It’s more of a daycare at this point with a learning component, but it’s still a change from the family home he went to for two years.

As a first-time parent, I didn’t understand how this would go. Yes, ZJ cried when we dropped him off. In fact, he cried the morning that I am writing this, which is day 7.  However, everyone at the daycare assured me he quickly gets over it quickly and plays hard. He comes home every afternoon happy.

I know it’s the right move.

What I didn’t count on is that this change would affect me so much. It breaks my heart that we had to leave his second family who watched him for so long. It breaks my heart to hear him cry as I walk away from the classroom in the new school. It breaks my heart that I can’t protect him from the unknown. I think I’ve taken this transition harder than he has!

Yes, you can chalk it up to being a first-time parent. If we have number two, I am sure it will be easier or at least more tolerable. But it’s these types of changes really hit home that I can’t protect my child from everything.

This is my child’s journey. 

A friend of mine who works with teenagers every day reminded me that kids are extremely adaptable and resilient. They are built that way. After a certain number of years as an adult, I forgot that point. I have my favorite coffee drink and my favorite routines. I probably don’t deal with change as well as I used to.

Our kids are equipped for change. Every day of my two-year-old’s life has an element of surprise, as he explores this new world.

It’s been hitting me that my son and I are in two very different places. This is my son’s journey. He is adaptable and he is more than ready for this new experience.

He gets to play with new toys, interact with kids, learn new words and figure out what it means to function in a school. He is so excited and happy when I pick him up at night.

Through my son, I am forced to re-learn the joys of being adaptable. He has already taught me a lesson or two in change when he was born. Holy cow, that was a shock to my life! I had him later in life and it seemed even more difficult for me to adjust. But I did, and it’s been worth it.

Now it’s time to change directions again.

6 creative places to take your toddler on a cold or rainy day

6 creative places to take your toddler on a cold or rainy day

It’s raining. Or cold. And you’ve been inside your home with your kids for way too long. What do you do?

Our son, ZJ, is two and exerts more energy in one hour than I do in a week. He is a runner and I am usually exhausted by the end of the day.  But it’s so important that we give him time and space to run and play.

This winter has been cold and rainy, which has severely limited his outside time. Spring is almost here but that promises more rain.

So, we’ve been forced to be creative.

Our criteria for a rainy-day activity is that it be relatively inexpensive and not too far away from our home. Our son needs a large space to explore, and ideally we want him to be exposed to new things.

Here are few of the places we took our toddler this year so far, which we highly recommend:

1. Pet store.

Take your kid to look at the fish and birds and reptiles at your local pet store. The pet stores near us don’t sell dogs, but many have pet adoption days. On one hand, it’s great because your kid gets to directly interact with the dogs who are up for adoption. On the other, if you are not careful, you may walk out with a new dog in tow!

6 creative places to take your toddler on a cold or rainy day

2. Local hotels and convention centers.

We have found a hotel that is perfect for our two-year old. We recently went to the Washington Gaylord Hotel, which has water fountains, tons of tall staircases and beautiful views of the harbor nearby. We even ran into the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders! You need to be choosy which hotel you take your kid to, but they generally have plenty of space for roaming, especially if it’s also a convention center.

6 creative places to take your toddler on a cold or rainy day

 

3. Bookstores and libraries.

Take advantage of bookstores and libraries, which often have book readings for young kids. Or, kid-size tables to explore new books. Our local Barnes and Noble has occasional book readings on Saturday mornings. Our library has readings too, but usually during the week when we work. It’s pretty easy to find these schedules online. The bonus part: If we are at the library, we always come home with new books!

6 creative places to take your toddler on a cold or rainy day

4. Museums.

We are lucky to live near Washington, DC, where all the Smithsonian museums are free. This winter we’ve gone to the Museum of Natural History (to see the larger than life mammals on display) and the Air and Space Museum. We arrive right when it opens and he is tired after an hour of exploring. Aquariums are also great places for young kids.

If you don’t live near free museums, many throughout the country have a free admission day sometime during the month, or you can find various discounts through your library or city.  Most areas have children’s museums but look further to see what other museums your kid may enjoy.

6 creative places to take your toddler on a cold or rainy day

5. Airport.

Warning, not all airports are suitable as a rainy-day alternative. Our nearest airport is clean, near by and has a lot of space before the security check-in. He can wander around (as it’s usually not overwhelmingly crowded in certain areas) or stand by the windows where he can see dozens of airplanes coming and going. Yes, this usually requires a parking fee, but it has been worth it.

6 creative places to take your toddler on a cold or rainy day

6. Your local in-door playground.

I can’t cover them all here as every community is different, but a quick search will show you what indoor gyms are in your area.

  • Local toddler gyms. There are tons of them out there. They often get crowded on rainy days but are loads of fun.
  • Community Centers: Every Friday our local center has a soft-block room available for kids for $1. Check out your local community center to see what it offers.
  • McDonalds or Chick Fil-A Playgrounds: Especially good for roadtrips.

We are always on the hunt for good indoor, rainy-day activities. Please leave a comment if you have any to add!

 

How to save money on diaper disposal bags

petwaste

Here is a way to save a few bucks on diaper disposal bags.

We received a three-pack of Munchkins Arm and Hammer disposable bags for babies at a baby shower. They were great — when we are on the road, we could easily tie up ZJ’s dirty diapers and toss them.

We were running low, and my sister happened to be in town. She owns three mastiffs and had a better idea. Why not buy dog disposal bags instead?

The dog bags were basically the same, and meant for the same purpose: waste removal. They were a little smaller but definitely big enough to handle the messiest of diaper changes.

And here is the kicker: You can often find them cheaper than 3 rolls of bags marketed toward parents.

Ok, yes, these bags are all pretty cheap in and of themselves. But we bought a 10 pack for a few bucks and we’ve been using that same pack for more than a year now.

Sometimes it pays off to stray from the baby aisles!

Create a mini diaper emergency kit for your car

Create a mini diaper bag for each car

Diaper bags are a necessary evil: You never know what will happen when you take your baby or toddler out of the house.

We like our bag but it’s just another thing to carry. We bring our diaper bag when we are going out for an extended period of time. But what about short trips to CVS, Target, getting gas or even the neighborhood playground?

It took me way too long to figure out that I could create mini diaper bags for each of our cars that would permanently live in each vehicle.

Baby Bag to go!

Some baby emergency kits contain everything under the sun. However, I went with these four basics:

1. Diapers

2. Wipes, which can be used not only for changing the baby but for wiping him down or cleaning up messes.

3. Disposable diaper changing pad, or something similar to cover the surface you’ll be changing your child.

4. An extra set of clothes. We use old hand-me downs that aren’t a part of our regular rotation.

You could also include a travel-size Vaseline in each bag.

Make a mini diaper bag for each car

I found these bags at the Dollar Spot at Target. Bonus is that he loves Cat in the Hat!

I made identical bags for each car, and now we rarely tote our diaper bag around.

One note of caution: Check up on the contents of your bag every so often. ZJ is at an age where we rarely need to change him on these quick trips. Sometimes these bags are left unused for a month or two. It’s wise to check that your bag has the right size diapers or clothes.